She Changed; He Didn't (Uh, Oh! Trouble Ahead)
I'd like to share with you a story Marisa (her pseudonym) shared with me:
“You changed! You didn’t used to be this way.”
He was angry. Not furious. But angry enough.
“So I want you to be the way you were!”
“Really,” I say. But I’m thinking, “Duh, and why haven’t you changed too?”
“I don’t get it,” he says. “Why can’t you be the woman I married, soft, gentle, easy-going?”
He really is clueless. He longs for that insecure, scared me that I am so happy to have laid to rest. And he refuses to embrace the new emboldened me. The ME that I am so proud of. The ME that I worked so hard to become.
When I was young and insecure, I only wanted to please. Above all, please the guys. So they would like me. And I could “get” the guy. In those days, getting the guy mattered. Hell, it still does. Just not that much.
Men think they’re special. Why? Because their mothers and our mothers taught us they were. And we believed them.
So are women special too? Yes, if they’re “hot!” And after the “hot” years, if they’re nurturing , nourishing, fostering, fortifying —others. The others being their husbands and kids, of course.
Yes, I’ve changed!
These days I’m nurturing, nourishing, fostering, fortifying myself. I’ve created my own identity. Yes, I’m about 30 years late. I know. But, you know what they say: better late than never.
I’m not saying that my husband is a bad guy. I’m just saying that he’s stuck in the past. He wants what was. He wants what used to be me. And that me is a phantom spirit.
I don’t want to be who he wants me to be. And yet, I must admit, that phantom spirit is not dead. Okay, maybe it’s dead; but it’s not buried. In the middle of the night, it still appears, taunting me. “Ha, you think you killed me. You didn’t! I will forever be with you.”
I am alone with these thoughts. I am brave in the daylight. In the darkness, I think “Who am I?” Who would I be without my husband, as imperfect as he is? Without my kids, who are grown and have left me? Without my teaching career, that has sustained me for years?
“Watch out,” my mother said. “Watch out for the darkness. Watch out for being alone.”
And I do. I watch out. I watch out for myself. And when the scared me comes to visit, I say, “Uh,oh you're here again. Visit me, if you must. But no, you can’t stay long. You don’t live here anymore.”
I am pleased with the new me. I wish my husband was too.
“Yes,” I tell him. “I can still be soft, gentle and easy-going. But not all the time. And not because I have to, but because I want to.”
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.